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How do you combat the overabundance of false information on the Internet? Patients always seem to have a diagnosis and want to insist that the doctor is wrong. 

 – April Rutledge

Every day, the news carries another story about some new health finding. One day you hear, “drink more coffee” or “eat this berry.” The next, you hear “avoid coffee,” and “eat bananas, not berries.” So-called health experts pepper the airwaves and internet around the clock, touting their cures for every condition under the sun.

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It’s confusing and, in some cases, downright dangerous. Anyone can post anything on the Internet with little or no training in any specific area. One person’s opinion can travel like wildfire. But even if it sounds trustworthy, often you’ll find little scientific basis in the “health” advice you find online.

I’m particularly skeptical of epidemiological studies based on diet and behavior. By definition, these are observational studies and simply make associations and assumptions with little or no real scientific basis. That’s where things can get risky, especially if you have other health issues. You might come up with one connection that pertains to you, but it takes a real medical professional to know which are reliable and which are not.

Don’t get me wrong: The Internet contains lots of useful information that can help you better understand your body. But stay skeptical. And resist the urge to diagnose yourself. Leave that to your doctor or other health professional, someone who knows your specific needs and condition.